PM says feds will provide COVID-19 docs, but will be mindful of sensitive info 'risk'
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will turn over “as much information… as possible,” to the House of Commons health committee that’s beginning a Conservative-prompted study into the COVID-19 response so far, but there will be a limit on how much gets released.
“In regards to the Conservatives’ motion, it was expressed to us by a number of important private sector actors that there are concerns around competitiveness, around confidentiality of contracts, around things like that and we're going to work as we always do to be as transparent as possible without putting at risk Canadians, or their well-being,” Trudeau said.
The motion summoning the committee to begin a deep dive into the federal government’s pandemic response and progress on testing, procurements and vaccines passed with the backing of all opposition parties on Monday.
The parties agreed to begin the study despite Liberal and stakeholder concerns about the motion seeking to make public sensitive contractual information that could jeopardize Canada’s ability to sign deals for vaccines or protective gear in the future.
Defending her motion, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said that the study is needed, especially amid the second wave of the virus in this country, rather than waiting until it’s behind us because what MPs discover could help course-correct in real time.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday that it appears as if the Liberals don’t want to be held to account. “It’s a pretty normal thing that the opposition would want to know: ‘Are we getting the best value for money?’ Obtaining information to be able to ensure that the best decisions are being made… Those are fair questions,” Singh said.
'ABSOLUTELY' LESSONS ALREADY LEARNED
Trudeau said Tuesday that the government is learning daily about the virus, and there are “absolutely” things he wishes were handled differently, but that those lessons are already informing the country’s response to the second resurgence of the novel coronavirus.
“Obviously, we're learning that some things work better than others and that's part of the process on how we make sure we're moving forward in the best possible way,” he said. “We will work with parliament to try and ensure that we're getting as much information to them as possible while at the same time, not putting at risk Canadians.”
In later comments to reporters on Parliament Hill, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she thinks a review should eventually be done of how “the entire country” responded to the pandemic, including all levels of government.
“I can only imagine the kinds of recommendations that experts will have as they review the response of Canada to the global pandemic,” she said, adding that the government will ensure it’s not releasing any confidential information, and that work’s already underway at Health Canada to collect documents and archive decisions that have been taken.
“But at this point in time, I'm very focused on getting Canadians through this wave of the pandemic,” she said.